Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets with Sheila Lowe, author of 'Written Off' (Forensic Handwriting Mysteries, book #7)

Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Sheila: I wanted to write mysteries almost since I started reading them at 8 years old. It wasn’t until my late forties that I started in earnest. I wrote one book, then another, and suddenly it was a series.
Is this your first book?
Sheila: Written Off is the seventh in my Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series. Before the first book, Poison Pen, I had two non-fiction works published about handwriting and handwriting analysis (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous).
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Sheila: For seven years, I tried to get my first mystery, Poison Pen, published by a major publishing house, finally giving up and making a deal with a small press, Capital Crime, in 2007. What a thrill it was when Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a starred review and it was immediately picked up, along with the next three in the series, by an editor at Penguin’s Obsidian. While I was writing book 4, that wonderful editor left and was replaced by another, who declined to renew my contract. When my agent at the time told me that a new publisher would not want to pick up a series in the middle, I decided to self-publish a standalone where my series characters appeared in a smaller role. I got to explore a couple of themes that had always fascinated me, including amnesia. Eventually, I got my rights back from Penguin and switched all my titles over to Suspense, another small press (they publish Suspense Magazine).
Although I am grateful for having had the big house experience it wasn’t all sweetness and light. At Penguin I would get an email with the book cover graphic and a boilerplate note: “here’s your new cover, we hope you love it as much as we do.” And if I didn’t love it—oh well, “it’s too late to make changes. I appreciate working with a smaller press because I have input into my covers and title, the final say in the text, and I get paid far better. With a big publishing house, you might get 8%-10% of the cover price—if the book is a mass market paperback, that means about .65 cents/book and no negotiation (“We’re ‘Big Publishing House,’ take it or leave it.”) With a smaller house, you might get better than 50%. Certainly, there is more room to negotiate.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Sheila: I’m not the only one to call it a heartbreaking business, but if you’re a writer, you have to write. One of my good friends writes for fun. He doesn’t care how many books he sells, he just enjoys the whole process, and that’s great. But if you want to make book sales at least part of your income it takes a strong commitment, not only to writing the book, but to getting it published, whether you have a traditional publisher or you do it yourself. And then you have to market the book. Most publishing houses, especially the big ones, do little-to-almost-no marketing for midlist authors (there are some exceptions). Most of the money they bring in goes into promoting the big names. So, to succeed you must be prepared to put a significant amount of time, effort, and some money into publicizing your own work. It’s also extremely important to make sure that your work is ready for publication, which means working with an independent editor along the way. That’s an investment, not a cheap one, but unless you have the brilliance of Shakespeare or Hemingway or Sylvia Plath, it is vital to your success.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Sheila: You can probably make more money self-publishing or with a small publisher. A big house might pay an advance, but if they do, the amount will be what they expect to make back on your book. They usually pay 8-10% of the cover price in royalties on mass market paperback, which means you have to sell a lot of books to make back the advance. A small house is unlikely to pay an advance, but will offer a far higher percentage. And if you self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace and follow their rules, you’ll receive around 70%.
Very important advice: If you are lucky enough to get a deal with an agent and/or a publisher, do not sell your characters. Read the contract carefully and only license your characters for the specific book or books covered by that contract. That way, if the series takes off and becomes Harry Potter-sized and you want to change publishing houses or make a movie deal, you will be able to. If you don’t protect yourself, you may lose all creative control over those people you have created and love.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Sheila: I’m honored that I was first published by a big publisher, but having tried it all, my current preference is for going with a smaller house. The author has far more control over things like cover, title, and what goes inside the book. Having said that, I would like to note that, regardless of how I publish, I always hire an excellent independent editor to work with me before I send my manuscript off to the editor at my publisher. I credit her with much of my success.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Sheila: Realize that publishing requires an investment of time and money, and commitment to the process. First, make sure you’ve done your homework and know how to tell your story well. That means paying attention to the small stuff like leaving out the adverbs whenever possible. Read and apply books on editing, such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown.
Carefully research the different publishing platforms so that whichever way you go, you’ll know what you’re getting into. If you opt for a major publishing house, you’ll need a good agent, which is just as difficult as getting a publisher. Attend the conventions in your genre. Agents on panels expect to be pitched by attendees. That’s why they’re there.
Learn how to market yourself, whether that means hiring a publicist if you can afford it, or doing it yourself through social media, blog tours, and the various other ways you can communicate to the world who you are and what you have to offer.

Finally, understand that it’s probably going to be a lot harder than you expect, and don’t let that discourage you. If you’ve got a story to tell and you’ve honed your craft, tell your story. Here’s wishing you the best of luck!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets with Mark S. Bacon, author of 'Desert Kill Switch'

Book Title: Desert Kill Switch
Genre: mystery/thriller
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Mark:
Those are really two very separate questions.   I decided this when I was probably 14 years old.  At the time I wasn’t thinking author as much as simply writer. I wrote short stories mainly for my own entertainment.  At first I was a science fiction and fantasy fan.  My stories were a blend of mystery and fantasy always with twist endings.  I enjoyed reading because it would take me to places and times I’d never experienced—or never would. 
In high school, as everyone does, I took English composition and was inspired and encouraged by two talented teachers.  I also took journalism.  The more I wrote, the more I could see that writing was the most challenging work that I could accomplish reasonably well.  That’s been part of my motivation throughout my writing career that’s included work for newspapers, writing for broadcast media and becoming the author of books. 
The second part of the question is why pen this book.  Looking for another challenge for my Nostalgia City protagonists I discovered a somewhat sneaky practice of some car dealers.  They sometimes install GPS trackers and kill switches in the cars they sell to people they consider high-risk borrowers.  Miss your payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—and your car is dead. 
Is this your first book?
Mark:
No.  Number eight. 
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Mark:
I’m published by a traditional publisher.  I choose them because they published my first mystery and wanted more. 
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Mark:
I sold my first book to a big New York publisher after writing only three query letters.  I then had to write a few sample chapters and an outline and that was it. I got an advance (for this business book) and started writing. 
Of course, that was too easy.  But I had done my homework about the market and about the kind of books this publisher produces.   And I had what turned out to be a unique angle on my topic.  Subsequent books were not as easy.  
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Mark: 
First, you have to do your homework.  Which companies publish books like the one you are writing?  Talk to them only.  It’s a waste of time to send a query letter about your fantasy novel to a company that publishes only nonfiction.
Second, be prepared to tell a publisher how you’re going to launch a professional marketing campaign for the book. Yes, you will have to market your own book.  If you don’t have a website/blog and a presence on several social media outlets, do that before you send in a query. Your publisher will require it.
Other lessons:
Agents can be of great help—one was for me—but they’re business people.  Find one who is genuinely excited about your book.  If you can’t, pitch the book on your own.
Hundreds of thousands of new book titles are released every year.  Even though the majority of titles are nonfiction, that can be an easier market to break into than writing novels.  Nonfiction titles are more easily sold to a niche market.  It’s easier to sell a nonfiction book to a small, but specialized market (quilters, photographers, pet owners, etc.) than it is to sell a novel to everyone who reads.
Many people who want to be writers think writing books is the path to success.  I used to teach journalism and I’d tell my students that there are a multitude of successful writers in the world—copywriters, business writers, public relations writers, sports writers, speech writers, tech writers and many others—who have never written a book.  Making a living solely through book writing is rare. 
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Mark:
Of course.  Landing a publisher—finding someone who likes your work enough to print it—is a great ego boost and a possible stepping stone to future books.  But you need to know exactly what your publisher will do and what they will expect you to do. 
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Mark:

Starting a career hoping to survive on book royalties is more than daunting. I suggest aspiring authors consider a less demanding, less stressful and more financially rewarding career.  Crop dusting pilot, alligator wrestler, and bomb diffuser come to mind.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets with Anna del Mar, Author of the Romantic Suspense 'The Guardian'

Name: Anna del Mar
Book Title: The Guardian
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Mermaid Press
Find out more:

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Anna: I became an author because I couldn’t stop writing. I tried, believe me. I didn’t think I was cut out for the life of a starving artist. But the stories kept coming. So I had to give them a chance.

The story that became The Guardian was born out of my travels to Africa. The Serengeti is one of the most beautiful, awe inspiring places in the world and the diverse, dynamic people of Africa stole my heart. If you’d like to see the images that inspired many of the pivotal scenes in The Guardian, click here to see my pictures of Africa.

Looking back, there was never a chance I’d lived through such a transforming experience and not incorporate it into my romantic suspense stories. I had to share my journey with my readers.

Is this your first book?
Anna: This is actually my sixth romance novel. It comes on the heels of The Asset  and The Stranger. It’s also the third book of my romantic suspense Wounded Warrior Series. But each novel is a standalone journey. It’s pretty cool. You can read them in whichever order you wish.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Anna: My first four novels were published by Harlequin. But for The Guardian, I chose to go Indie. I think it’s smart for an author to diversify. In this day and age, hybrid authors have more freedom all around.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Anna: I started my romance writing career with a large publisher and I loved it. It’s a great strategy to gain readership and experience. But I have to say that I’m also loving my Indie journey. I love the freedom of writing and publishing a novel exactly as I think it should be done. There’s great creative freedom to the Indie process. It’s actually quite liberating.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Anna: I’ve learned patience, perseverance and grit. I’ve also learned to be true to myself and my stories.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Anna: Absolutely! The more doors you open for yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Anna: Write, write a lot. Find a top-of-the line editor that knows your genre and listen carefully. If your editor doesn’t get it, neither will your reader. Work hard to polish your manuscript and don’t let rejection kill your writing. Change is par for the course. So embrace change and go after what you want.

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About the book:
From the Amazon Bestseller author of The Asset and The Stranger, comes The Guardian.

Game Warden Matthias Hawking is a decorated ex-SEAL engaged in a grueling fight against ruthless poachers in Africa. He’s short on resources and long on enemies. There’s a price on his head. The last thing he needs is the unexpected arrival of a beautiful but stubborn journalist threatening to uncover his secrets, an alpha female challenging his alpha male and getting into trouble, a hurricane wearing boots.

Jade Romo is a veteran of several different kinds of war. She’s survived her heroin-addicted mother, the foster care system, and the conflict in Afghanistan. Jade’s tough, confident, cynical, and self-reliant, a woman who doesn’t believe in forevers. But when she defies the poachers and lands at the top of the warlord’s kill list, she’s forced to rely on the skilled, attractive but supremely infuriating game warden who has captivated her body’s undivided attention.

Haunted by his past but driven by his courage, her mysterious guardian will do anything in his power to protect the woman who has captured his heart.